Walter Pardon at home

Talking and singing to Cliff and Pauline Godbold and Sheila Park – a transcription by Rita Gallard of Sheila’s recording.

 (SP tapes 15(ii))   No date

In due course, audio of this interview will be added to this page. It is currently being digitised

Song:  Broomfield Hill

WP: Had that from my uncle.   Nine is the witches’ number. 

(And you were saying to us earlier, about singing at harvest suppers.  There was a lot of singing like that in your family, yes?)

WP: Oh yes, yes.  Used to be Christmas night and the harvest frolic, well they sung the songs that they learnt as new.  Ages stretched so much, you see, the old ‘uns down to young ‘uns, there was years difference, and you very near knew when they were born by the songs, you see, they’d be the folk songs that went back probably to the eighteenth century, early nineteenth, then when the younger ones come along the songs that would be sung what they learnt perhaps in the eighteen-nineties, nineteen hundreds up to perhaps early nineteen-twenties.  So they all learnt them as new, as they come out in their time.   And there was only me learnt the old ones, you see, what had gone back into grandfather’s time, that was all. 

(What was his favourite song, do you know?)

WP: Billy’s favourite song?  I think he used to like Generals All best – Generals All, Duke of Marlborough, that is the song he used to sing more than anything I know, I suppose he liked it better. 

(Is that one you have? Could you sing a verse?)

WP: Yes, yes,  I can sing it for  you.

Song: Marlborough

Fragment of nonsense song ‘The Arches at the Adelphi’ (?)

My uncle’s tune, as far as that went.

(You say he got it off a blind fiddler?)  

WP: He never did learn it all.  He never could collect it all.

Song: The Lawyer

Song: The Pretty Ploughboy

Song: The Irish Girl

Song: An Old Man’s Advice

(Lovely.  Where did you get that one, Walter? Tell us about that.)

WP: Well I learned that as a youth, where nearly all of them come from – off  Uncle Billy.  Someone wrote it out when George Edwards started the union off, about 1907.  We had a photograph of George, I think you’ve seen it, haven’t you.  When that come out, that was after George, I don’t think Roy Palmer had it, but that was adapted of course,  ‘Grandfather’s clock’ was much older.  [The English Labourers Chronicle of 9 July 1881 reported that at an entertainment held in Walsingham to raise funds for the Widows’ Benefits Society, local Union leaders John Wingfield, Richard Colman and Zacharias Walker performed this song, which “caused quite an excitement among the ladies”.]

(That’s a smashing one. )

Song: The Raggle-Taggle Gypsies

(That’s a lovely tune, Walter; a number of your tunes are different, there are just little subtle differences, it’s so nice.)

Song:  The Hungry Army

(Do you know where that came from, Walter, what period that came from?)

WP: The Crimean War.  Well now, I knew some of that, because that was in Roy Palmer’s ‘Rambling Soldier’. And well, that’s not supposed to be a laughable song.  They did come home ragged and torn.  According to Mike, Ballarat is in Australia.  Have you got the ‘Rambling Soldier’?  Because I thought Roy Palmer said Ballarat was the Crimea.  That’s about that time.

(I thought it was Australia, the gold fields in Australia.)

WP: Yes, that’s what Mike say.  Well you know that’s not to be laughed at, that sound laughable, but that was pretty serious, they did come home ragged and torn.  That’s how they were treated.  They did come home hungry, there’s no doubt about that.  According to Roy, of course Roy’s a very clever man, what he wrote in his books.  They come home in rags, you see, some of them were wounded bad and I suppose they never gave them hardly any pension, so that’s where I completed that one from.

(How much of it did you have?)

WP: I had about ‘they cut my hair with a knife and fork’, that verse, and the start of it.  And the chorus.  About two verses, yes.  I can remember Billy singing that to me when I was a little boy, I thought it was laughable then, about cutting my hair with a knife and fork.  That’s not supposed to be.  I suppose that was just a common old soldier’s song, but no doubt that was sung.  Apparently ‘Balaclava”s a traditional song, originally, according to Roy, of course some of them had fought in the Crimea. That was in the book too… ‘Grace Darling’ – about seven different versions. Sheila want to sing that you see, to be accompanied, the thing is, if she get it, that might not be exactly right as I sing it, by the music, so you’d have to re-learn the tune.  I don’t know who possesses it.  I suppose someone have got it. 

(It’s on the record, isn’t it, on the second record?)

WP: That’s right, yes.

In the local paper, the ‘Eastern Daily Press’, several years back now, that was in there about the press gang.  There used to be a mill stand over at Swafield, over at the west end, the Cubitts’ mill, a post mill, and I can remember the cross beam and the upright post still stood up, that was built in the eighteenth century, and that would be in the early 1800s, 1803 or 04, just before Trafalgar, one of the young Cubitts was in Yarmouth, the press gang nearly got him, but he ran and he got away and he came all the way from Yarmouth down to Swafield by water, you know, by the rivers, broads and down that old canal, and hid up in the mill for a few weeks, never come out.  And that was the only thing I really did ever hear about the press gang, that was too far back to know anything about that. But I know there was transportation went on, ’cause they transported one of the blacksmith’s sons.  Bob Hall, Peter Hall’s son.  He was caught nearby when someone had fired a stack, near Knapton church in the stackyard, policeman come and blamed him for it, you see, and he was took off to court, you see, and he was sentenced. I don’t know if that was seven years or fourteen years transportation, but he never done it.  In fact they said that was the last thing, his father asked him, he said, ‘Before you leave me, Bob, tell me the truth – did you set fire to the stack?’  He said ‘No, I did not.’  But anyhow, I don’t know how long he was out in Australia or Tasmania, one or the two, but there was an old man, I think he lived in the village, when he was dying he sent for the parson and said he wanted to make a confession.  He said he was the one set fire to the stack.   And they sent over to Australia for Bob to come home, but he never did get home.  Poor man died and was buried at sea.  An innocent man.  Yeah, I been told that.  Well, I don’t know when that happened, I don’t  think anyone alive that I knew did remember it.  Course that could have been probably in the 1840s, [census records confirm this] I aren’t sure what year it was and how he was transported for something he never did do.  They did say someone from Swafield had been transported and come home again.  I don’t know what for, probably some trivial offence.

(Well, there would be a lot of poaching …)

WP: I don’t know when that might have been, that went on in the 1850s and even later I believe.  I know Peter Bellamy’s ‘Transports’, is true, you see, they transported the young people and a lot more too.

Rita writes: I couldn’t hear anything coherent about the union songs. Walter was singing into the mic but not speaking into it when he was talking with Cliff and Pauline and of course with his quiet voice, it didn’t carry.  

The anecdote about the ladies getting excited over ‘An Old Man’s Advice’ comes from the project I did for the Certificate in Local History which started me on the route to a History M.A over twenty years ago.   No Research Is Ever Wasted.

Transcribed by Rita Gallard  
July 2021